The 8 Skills of an Excellent Dental Assistant, According To Dentists

A skilled, licensed and professional dental assistant will always be able to find employment in the growing field of dental care.
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Dental hygienist smiles at camera while working with patient

The best person to ask what it takes to be an excellent dental assistant is a dentist. The dentist will spend about 90 percent of the working day with the dental assistant in the treatment rooms or in the lab area. Working side-by-side, they get to know each other's habits very well.

Dental assistants need to focus on their super chair-side skills, such as getting the apex on a second molar x-ray. However, not all dental assistants can deliver these skills in a consistent fashion unless they concentrate on what they are doing. Assisting abilities are important when it comes to keeping the field of work visible with the suction tip and most importantly, keeping the mirror dry so that the dentist can see the tooth. “It isn’t just about the suction as it is about why the suction.” says a dentist friend of mine. “Dental assistants need to know the procedure and why they are doing each step.”

Here are the eight most amazing traits that make a good dental assistant, according to dentists.

  1. Know when to speak and when to be quiet. In the middle of seating porcelain veneers is not the time to talk about the local soccer match. Matching the mood of the provider requires good observation skills and sensitivity to the situation. If the dentist is studying the prep, the dental assistant should be watching and listening to see if there will be some directions or requests made. 
  2. Have a professional, clean appearance. Wrinkled, stained uniforms should never enter the treatment room on a dental assistant ready for the workday. Patients equate neatness and cleanliness with the services they are receiving.
  3. Know all of the procedures performed in the practice and each instrument and sequence of usage in the procedure. Being prepared is being organized and proactive. The dental assistant should set up the room properly and make sure equipment is plugged in, the proper handpiece is in place, and the right bur is in the handpiece before beginning. When the dentist is in the middle of a procedure, it is embarrassing to have to get up and get an instrument that should have been on the set-up.
  4. Skip the blame game. The professional dental assistant takes pride in their work and also accepts the responsibility when things don’t go as planned. Blaming another team member should not be a common way to get out of responsibility. Dentists talk about the staff drama and how they wish it would disappear. A loyal dental assistant does not contribute to gossip or office drama. By not contributing to the drama, it will not escalate.
  5. Don’t be a dentist substitute. Remember, assisting abilities do not include diagnosing dentistry. Even though assistants can see things in x-rays and in the mouth, that doesn’t grant a license to dispense advice. A dental assistant is in a good position to support the clinicians, but not be responsible for the ultimate outcome of the treatment.
  6. Resist the urge to be a fortune teller. Also in the realm of diagnosing is the dental assistant who predicts the patient's fate if they do not do the treatment now. “This tooth is going to get an infection and need a root canal if you don’t get the cavity fixed.” While this may be true, it is not appropriate to predict this outcome to the patient. Often a patient will ask the dental assistant, “would you have this treatment done?” To which the dental assistant might say, “yes, because the procedure that the doctor has explained is supported by symptoms and evidence from the evaluation and the x-rays.”
  7. Always be a good team player. You will never hear, “that’s not my job” from a dental assistant who is committed to practice success. Other staff members get sick or have family emergencies to attend to and the rest of the team must fill in and help with the patients and the phones or in other areas where they are needed. Dental assistants should be able to navigate the practice dental software in order to enter treatment rendered and future treatment, schedule an appointment and collect payments due. 
  8. The serious career dental assistant would like to improve their skills and learn new techniques. A pivotal role of a valued dental assistant is to grow and change as the practice grows and changes. Dentists attend courses on new clinical techniques and on newer and better ways to manage the practice. They need a dental assistant to help and cooperate with these changes and new ideas. A dental assistant stuck in the past may soon be without a job.

Dental assistants play a large part in the success of any dental practice. Focusing on the importance of the position, and the importance of communicating with the dentist, the other dental staff members, and the patients, will set you off on the right path to a thriving dental career.

Written By Cloud Dentistry